PU Webinar on Voter Education in Pakistan
LAHORE: The Punjab University Pakistan Study Center (PSC) hosted a webinar on “Voter Education in Pakistan”. Director of the Confucius Institute and Professor of Political Science, Dr Rana Ijaz Ahmad delivered keynote address with Maham Syed of the United States, Salman Abid, a political analyst and Tanveer Shahzad, a renowned journalist, who all explained their point of view. on the subject under discussion.
Professor Amra Raza, Director of PSC and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities expressed her gratitude to the participants and the organizers, and especially appreciated the efforts of Dr Karim Haider Syed in organizing this webinar. The webinar began with his welcome speech.
In her welcoming speech, she stressed the need for voter education in Pakistan and said that it is our responsibility to educate the people to participate in the electoral process. Ms. Maham Syed, a Human Resources graduate from Oakland University, Michigan, USA, expressed deep concern about Pakistan’s electoral process after spending 18 years in Pakistan. She believed that the vote is one of the crucial aspects that decide the fate of a country. She pointed out that most Pakistani citizens are unaware of the voting process and end up voting as their parents / elders choose. She cited the example of the education system in the United States and proposed that Pakistan educate every citizen up to primary level, so that every citizen is made aware of their rights as citizens and their overall ethical sensitivity. She insisted on the vigilant use of information technology and print media to increase voter education.
Salman Abid stressed that the electoral process is not based on a problem in Pakistan, it is based on regional politics, ethnicity, hero worship and nepotism. He also referred to the voter turnout, which averages (50-55)%, in Pakistani elections. Salman suggested that the casting vote should be compulsory in Pakistan. He also placed emphasis on voter education especially for the youth population. Prof. Rana Eijaz Ahmad, in his opening speech, focused on voter education in Pakistan in a pragmatic way and underlined it from a different angle. He believes that human behavior is unpredictable, so it is necessary to understand the makeup of individuals in a society. He pointed out that usually there are three kinds of individuals in any society, Subjects, Parishes and Participants. The first concerns individuals who have a slave mentality and who are not interested in the electoral process. Secondly, parishioners are interested in politics with their specific interests, for example nationalist parties, they are always part of the electoral process when their interests are private, otherwise they show no interest in politics. And third, the participants are small in any society, but they serve as the basis of a society. The right size of participants in any society is the guarantee of a stable society and it also determines the right direction of the state. He further clarified that in Pakistan it was difficult to motivate a voter to vote without any internal or external influence. Although political parties work for the training of voters and try to influence them. They use posters, banners with manifestos and make promises for different programs that they will carry out. It highlights the readiness of voters to vote on their own which is the major focus of the webinar.
At the end of his opening speech, he suggested some practical recommendations as Pakistan should appoint a commission which should be made up of professors of political science and psychology. Before voter education, more provinces for administrative reasons need the day. He also called for electoral reforms and administrative reforms. In addition, the Department of Political Science must polish the candidates and voters to have a prosperous society. Debates on different subjects such as economy, foreign policy, education, health, etc. should be conducted between candidates to gauge the ability of candidates so that voters can make an informed decision when voting.
Dr. Rehana Hashmi, associate professor of political science, said reasonable and mature voting behavior can be adopted through voter education. In voter education, the most important thing is to develop critical thinking skills and apply the skills as active citizens. She added that for effective voter education, a Grand National strategy is needed in which the electoral commission, civil society, NGOs, educational institutions and the media should fully play their role. As part of this strategy, voters must be trained and informed about the functions of the electoral process, the structural and functional aspects of political parties and the implementation of the strategy regarding their manifestos. Journalist and analyst Mr. Tanveer Shahzad said in his speech that having covered all of Pakistan’s elections for the famous national newspaper, he believes the emphasis should be on the independence of voters’ choice. According to him, the American and European model cannot be implemented in Pakistan and suggested that the government develop a national voter awareness policy. Dr Safder Ali Sherazi, professor and chairman of the geography department, said that we must allow students to take part in politics for good participation. He also stressed that most of the population lived in villages and that it was necessary to educate them for the electoral process. Webinar host Dr Karim Haider Syed, current researcher at Pakistan Study Center covered Pakistan’s main elections and documented them in book form. He stressed the need for voter education in Pakistan. He also appreciated the efforts of the faculty members, Prof. Dr. Naumana Kiran, Dr. Amjad Abbas Magsi, Dr. Ahmed Ijaz as well as the students of M.Phil and PhD.